Looking after my brain’s reward system

As someone who’s used to receiving regular rewards through a reward system of milestones via the education system and then the corporate ladder, it’s been hard to feel valuable now that I’m no longer in either of those systems.

Left to my own devices for more hours of the day than I’m used to, I’m often contemplating my next move.  Without regular stimulation to my reward system, I wonder if I’m spending today productively, or if I’m being lazy or stagnating.  I spend a decent portion of the day working, but I still feel lazy.

Every day, I reach a different conclusion about my next move:

  1. Writing is something I’ve always wanted to pursue.  Through blogging or self-publishing, I will be able to try my hand at a lifelong dream.
  2. Writing is something that I’ve always wanted to pursue.  I should try to make writing my day job by finding related employment.
  3. I’m wasting years invested in a corporate career.  I should return to the corporate ladder and keep striving to climb.  Even though it made me miserable and fat.
  4. I’m wasting years invested in a corporate career.  I should return to the corporate world but find a job that just pays the bills.  I can stop climbing for the rest of my life, as long as I’m not stressed and fat.  But what if one day I get made redundant?

 

After contemplation, I’ve realised this exhausting loop of settling on different conclusions daily is a lack of stimulation to my brain’s reward system.

I used to be motivated by an award from my teachers, a pat on the back from my parents, or a promotion from my boss.  Nowadays, it’s up to me to do that for myself. Admittedly I should enforce more clear structure and goals to my days.  But even when I do, nothing I achieve feels like it was challenging enough or worthwhile enough.  My brain’s reward system remains woefully unstimulated.

I used to be motivated by an award from my teachers, a pat on the back from my parents, or a promotion from my boss.  Nowadays, it’s up to me to do that for myself.

It makes me crave a reward, the type that I’m used to, an acknowledgement from a formal system that I’m valuable as a human being and evidence of my continuous self-improvement.
It makes me want to rejoin the corporate ladder and work long hours and climb climb climb, so someone can give me a good performance review, a promotion, a small bonus, or something that makes me feel valuable.

This is completely irrational too, as my personal experiences in the corporate ladder have taught me that my insatiable desire to please others left me vulnerable to less scrupulous colleagues.  I traded my physical and mental wellbeing for a pat on the back, and by the end I was a fat, stressed, anxious husk of a being who lived with my family yet managed to not see them for weeks on end.

Yet the tumultuous waves of logic and emotion keep tumbling through my mind, and every day I have a different conclusion and a different goal.  It’s exceedingly tiresome and I’m getting sick of myself.

Dear friends, how do you keep your brain’s reward system stimulated and motivated?  

 

 

(Featured image source: PourquoiPas on Pixabay)

 

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